Sparring at LA BoxingWant to know more about my boxing?

The interview below was conducted by Irish fighter Niamh Griffin, a freelance journalist who runs the site Inspiring Sports Women. Niamh has written about women’s sports for Oxygen, International Kickboxer and Life and Fitness in Australia and Ireland.

You can also read my most recent posts about boxing on my blog, The Glowing Edge.

How long have you been training?

I discovered boxing entirely by accident. When I was about 40 years old, my husband saw heavy bags on sale at our local sporting goods store. He brought one home and hung it in the garage, thinking our boys would enjoy it. They weren’t all that interested, but I was fascinated. But I also didn’t know what I was doing, so a friend connected me with world-champion professional boxer Bonnie Mann at LA Boxing (now a UFC Gym). I worked out in the gym there for about a year before I decided I wanted to get in the ring, and once I made that shift, I was completely and totally sold on boxing.

You say yourself you’re a little older than most novice boxers. What made you take up boxing now?

My 2nd fight in AtlantaI had (and won) my first fight after I turned 45. I wouldn’t say boxing is a young woman’s sport, but it’s definitely true that boxing takes a toll on your body. But I’m lighter, faster, and stronger right now than I ever was in my 20s or 30s. I wish I had discovered this sooner!

Could you describe the process of moving from the first class to realizing you wanted to fight?

I had a lot of misconceptions about boxing before I got to my gym. I assumed it was simple brutality – two men beating the crap out of each other with their fists. I had never seen nor heard of women’s boxing, and I had absolutely no idea how many complicated skills and mental abilities the sport demanded.

I watched the team coach carefully train her fighters in the ring. I saw her intense mentoring, consistent care, and the powerful work she was bringing out in her boxers. I was terrified, but I believed she could teach me how to be in the ring for real.

And she did. I was amazed to learn that I could hit someone, hard, and take a hit as well. And it became very quickly apparent that it would take me years to learn how to move, defend, throw punches, and strategize under pressure for an entire round, and an entire fight. I was in!

What’s the best part of a training session for you?

Being in the ring, after the first round.

I’m always incredibly anxious before a sparring session. So many things have to come into play before you get in the ring – eating right, training right, good cardio, no injuries or strains. But even when I know I have all those other things I’m going over strategy in my mind, reminding myself that I can do this, telling myself that I know how to take care of myself in the ring.

But once that first bell rings and I begin to box, I feel incredible. Powerful, strong, capable. It’s worth all the struggle and anxiety. When I come out of the ring I feel like a superhero. I feel like the most amazing woman in the world!

How has training and competing changed you?

Before boxing I rarely did anything for myself – I put all my energy into supporting my family or other people. In fact, I was feeling pretty fed up with neglecting myself to care of the rest of the world when I discovered boxing.

When I’m competing in the ring it is emphatically not my job to take care of anyone else.

When I’m sparring, the only time I’m looking out for the other person is if I’m training someone new, but most of the time I’m in with my trainer or men who are all bigger and stronger than I am.

Boxing forces me to care not only for my body, but to put my body and brain to hard work under incredibly difficult circumstances. I have to care for and believe in myself. When I get in the ring I get a win, every time, against the part of me and the rest of the world that doesn’t believe I can do it.

That translates beautifully to life, work, and everything else. It’s worth all the blood, sweat, and bruises that I’ve paid into boxing. Every bit.